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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 08:58 GMT
Reach for the sky from the garage
By Greig Watson
BBC News

Susan Lipscombe-Ridley sitting in her Spitfire
The project has already taken nearly a year
Susan Lipscombe-Ridley, like many people, needs more space in her garage.

But rather than being cluttered with old toys, unused tools and bottles waiting to be recycled, it is filled with a full-sized Spitfire.

And far from being an impulse buy at a car boot sale it has been built, from the blueprints and rivets up, at her Lincolnshire home.

Mrs Lipscombe-Ridley, who wants to raise money for charity, now needs more space so she can complete the project.

She said: ""It's not a hobby, it's a calling. I've given up my job to spend more time on the project.

"This is a chance to get to know an icon and even share a little bit in its history - and all for a good cause."

The spitfire in Susan Lipscombe-Ridley's garage
Some of the original instruments were slightly radioactive, so I'm not sure we could use those
Susan Lipscombe-Ridley
She began work on the all-metal machine over 11 months ago, to raise money for a Lincolnshire children's charity, STRUT in the Community.

Mrs Lipscombe-Ridley, whose son is disabled, said: "Seeing these wonderful aircraft, I thought it was a pity that people, especially children, couldn't get closer to them.

"In museums, understandably, you are kept well away but with this, you could get inside, touch things, really see what it was like."

The plane is an exact reconstruction of a Mark II Spitfire, one of the aircraft which took part in the Battle of Britain.

The aircraft, which will be 36ft 10ins (11.2m) long and 29ft 11ins (9.1m) wide has taken shape in a suburban street in Sleaford.

"The neighbours have been fine. Every now and again they wander past and offer comments like 'It hasn't changed, much has it?', but we have been careful to keep the noise down," she said.

'Mammoth' task

She has been helped by a friend who both flew and worked on Spitfires while they were still in service.

She said: "Up until now, people have usually found a Spitfire in bits and put it together.

"That is very different to what we are doing here. We are sticking exactly to the blueprints, making it like the originals were made.

A spitfire in flight
36ft 10ins (11.2m) long, 29ft 11ins (9.1m) wide and 11ft 5ins (3.5m) high
Engine Rolls-Royce Merlin XII Power:1175 hp (MkIIa) and 1300hp(MkIIb)
Max Speed:370 mph (595 km/h)
Weight, Gross: 6,275 lb (2,846 kg)
"But now we are facing the problem that my garage is just too small to be able to fit the wings and the tail."

She is now hoping a benefactor will come forward with larger premises so she can move the aircraft.

The decision on whether to sell or hire out the finished plane depends on what it is finally capable of.

"It's been built like a Spitfire so it could fly - but it would need an engine.

"So as well as the space, I would welcome any donations of internal fittings, though some of the original instruments were slightly radioactive, so I'm not sure we could use those."

Mark Parr, of Historic Flying Ltd, a company which restores Spitfires commercially, has been working with vintage aircraft for 15 years.

He said: "Restoring a Spitfire, let alone building one from scratch, is a mammoth task.

"This company is lucky to have the services of 10 engineers, each with their own field of expertise, and it takes us roughly 14 months to bring a Spitfire to flying condition.

"Every part we handle has to be examined, scanned, repaired and often remanufactured to the highest standard.

"We employ several other companies to make parts because we need them to be right, because safety is the priority."

He added: "We wish her the best of luck and hope the project raises lots of money."

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